Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Driving Miss Crazy

I am like a sit-com mom in the car! Ha ha ha!

I brought Jake to get his drivers permit Monday afternoon, he got 100% on the test. Actually he finished the classes last Wednesday night and John drove through a snow storm to bring him for the test on Christmas Eve only to discover they were closing early and wouldn't let him take the test. It was imparative that he get his permit by Monday so that he can take the test for the license on his birthday. Monday was exactly 6 months away from his 16th birthday. We wouldn't want to do anything in a rush, why plan ahead when you can do things at the last minute?

Being very excited to see this boy drive I then decided to bring him over to Wooddale Church where they have a large parking lot to drive around. He drove at about 10mph around the building several times. I told him he could maybe speed up to 20mph but then I started panicking when he did that. In my defense it was like a skating rink in the parking lot, very icy. Finally I suggested that he could go out on the road so I let him turn right out of the parking lot, right onto the road about ½ a block down and then right back into the parking lot again. Then I had him go around the building again, which was feeling safe to me, while I calmed down from that foray into the real world. After another loop around the church I let him get back on the road and head to our house using all back roads (let the drivers ed instructor introduce the freeway, isn’t that what he gets paid for?) I was only minorly hysterical the entire drive home. I have never been so happy to see our home and garage in my life. That said, he did fairly well. He did struggle with a couple things but they seem to be the things most new drivers struggle with: 1--he kept driving too close to the right side of the road. This time of year it means snow banks. The right lane doesn’t always get fully plowed so it is a little more narrow anyway right now and he is hugging the snow bank. 2--he didn’t seem to understand the need to slow down quite significantly to turn. If we didn’t have a stop sign at a turn he would barely touch the brake before trying to make the turn. Making a left into our neighborhood almost put me over the edge but I think was a good learning experience for him because he saw how crazy the turn was.

When we got home John was completely excited as well and took him out again about an hour later. They went back to wooddale and practiced sliding on ice and whatnot so Jake would know what to do if the car started sliding. Plus more regular driving. Apparently Jake tells me that Dad is much calmer than I am which is funny because John usually doesn’t have a lot of patience when teaching Jake things so I figured he would get frustrated quickly with him. I guess we are both just so excited to have him driving.

Then last night I let him drive again to meet a friend somewhere. He did much better and I tried not to continually give him direction but just wait to see if he already knew what to do. And I tried to tell him far in advance where and when to turn. He was appreciative of both those things. I can see that I will probably start relaxing in a few weeks. He will have to learn the highway soon though since practically everywhere we go in our life requires us to drive on it. I might need medication before we do that!

When we decided we needed the mid-life crisis there were a few things I was dreading doing again, potty training, tantrums, school I think there is a new thing to add to the list. But I am also thrilled and excited to continue driving with Jake and see him learn this skill and gain independence from us as well as become an even bigger help to us. I am sure when Isabelle is 15 I will be excited for her to drive as well. I guess this is just one more of the many reasons I am glad my children are almost 11 years apart. As fun as this is I think I will need to be in recovery for the next 10 years before I will be ready to train another one.

The big fall

It is important to have a few interesting Christmas stories to keep the conversation going each year... "remember the year when Michele and I knocked over the Christmas tree while fighting..." or "remember that year we abandoned the family for Wisconsin Dells..." or "remember that year when 88 year old Grandma Dorothy slipped on the last 2 steps and broke her ankle..." OH WAIT, that was this year!

There we are enjoying a lovely Christmas eve gathering at my parents. Because of the snowstorm and late night my parents had picked Dorothy, an adopted grandma and close family friend, up earlier and planned for her to spend the night. We had been enjoying conversation and a delicious meal together upstairs but could hold the kids off no longer, it was time to open presents. My mom had decided to open up the gifts downstairs this year which seemed like an exciting idea as we had always opened up gifts in my grandma's downstairs on Christmas eve growing up. My Grandma had always made Christmas eve special and now after she is gone we still try to hold on to some of the many traditions she brought us on this holiday. Dorothy had been present for all those Christmas eve's as well.

I go downstairs and start passing the gifts out. My dad has just asked Dorothy if she needs help and has been assured that she is fine. As I am standing around the corner I suddenly hear a fall, rush around the corner and see Dorothy sitting on the stairs. "Are you OK?" I ask. The correct answer was supposed to be, "Yes I just slipped" but instead she answered, "I don't think so." She indicated her ankle and as I looked down I knew it was broken. That is not the normal way an ankle looks even if it is swollen and that was an awful lot of swelling to occur within moments of the fall. By this time my mom, dad and husband have arrived and I gladly step back to let them assess the situation. There is a reason I never considered going into the medical field, just that little interaction was all I could handle.

Once they moved her to a chair I knew what I could handle...taking pictures!

Initially Dorothy was hiding her face from me but eventually I got her to smile for me. This is how she handles everything in life, with a calm smile. Ankle broken in 2 places and dislocated she sit here smiling while we wait for the paramedics to arrive.

While the paramedics were checking her out and preparing to bring her upstairs She and my mom were deciding what she needed to bring in her purse, wondering if she should change her clothes and in general planning for her hospital stay.

They wheeled her up the stairs on this chair and then out to the ambulance where my dad rode with her to the hospital.

The moment she got to the top of the stairs Isabelle looked around and said, "NOW can we open our presents?" That's my girl.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Family Christmas

We are blessed to have our families close by for the Holidays. After 19 years of marriage with various Holiday arrangements and many changes to both our families we have hit on a schedule that seems to work for everyone. Christmas eve with my family at rotating homes and Christmas day with John's family at his brother Mike's home.

We are all working on creating traditions and memories. There are still lots of little kids on my side of the family which means we are always wondering what we can do on Christmas to make it special for them. Should we try a craft, sing songs, read stories, a little of everything? With 5 little kids in town our holidays are all about them. There is alot of excitement to Christmas through the eyes of a child.

The Minnesota Grandkids

With Grandma and Grandpa

My Brother's Brood

Our Family

In John's family Isabelle is the only grandchild under 13 and our holidays have become more relaxed as the kids have grown and become part of the adult mix. We don't have to entertain them but can just sit and enjoy them. It is a little harder for Isabelle since there isn't much child proofing or kids toys laying around anymore but on the other hand she has no shortage of people to love her up and play with her. Of course Mike and Dara now have a 1 year old grandson in the mix which I suspect will mean some changes as their family continues to grow.

I wanted to get a picture of all the activity going on at once. This big room is why Mike and Dara host every year.

Mike and I telling everyone where to stand for the family picture. They all like to act like they don't want a family picture and then thank me later for making it happen.
I only got them to stand for 2 pictures. Luckily this one is just about perfect. Dara's eyes are closed but were open on the other so we just have to work a little photo shop magic. Anyone out there that can do that for me???

White Christmas

It was a beautiful Christmas here. The snow came, we embraced it and experienced a wonderful white Christmas.

As we waited for the snow we wondered if it would keep us from spending Christmas with family. OK we didn't actually wonder that because we are true Minnesotans and never let a few inches of snow keep us home. So of course we made it to all our Christmas gatherings with both my family on Christmas eve followed by our church service and John's family on Christmas day.

We had most of Christmas day at home before heading to John's brother's house and so we took some time to enjoy the beautiful weather. Lots of fresh snow, no wind and warmer temperatures made it perfect for building a snowman and throwing a few snowballs. Isabelle kept begging for a snowball fight but then discovered the heavy snowballs actually hurt when you got hit by them. The reality of the activity wasn't quite what she had imagined. We decided to toss the snowballs on the garage roof instead.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ready for Christmas

I am ready for Christmas. Can you believe it??? My gifts are all bought and under the tree:

And my Christmas letters will go out today:

I am so relaxed I am even bought some ornaments for Isabelle to paint despite deciding for the good of our relationship not to buy her craft supplies for Christmas (future blog post on that topic):

And I have plenty of teenage food for the approximately 30 kids who will be at Jake's annual Christmas party tonight:

(there is also wings, meatballs and pizza rolls in the freezer. Do you think it is enough? You are thinking I need more pop right? Me too.)

Since I am so on top of my life an entire week before Christmas I have time to think about well...Christmas. An entire week to devote to thinking about the gift of Christmas, Jesus. Jake will be off school all week. I am imagining some family time watching Christmas movies in the evening. Talking about the joy of giving, of having a heart of gratitude for the gifts we receive, praying together and simply reflecting Christ in our lives through time spent enjoying one another. We will play games, sing songs, drink hot coco by the fire...It will be like a Norman Rockwell experience. Ahhhh. Let's just sit and enjoy the image for a moment shall we...

Ok, Ok, I know, Jake will want to get out of the house with his friends or stay in the house and get online with his friends. Isabelle will try to understand gratitude but will be too distracted telling us what she wants for Christmas to really pay attention. John will be home late trying to finish up whatever job he is working on before Christmas and I will be too tired from dreaming up my ideal scenario to motivate them all.

Just trying to keep it real.

Hopefully somewhere between the two images we will be able to spend time as a family focused on Jesus and maybe start a new family tradition or 2. We do have one great tradition that started when Isabelle was a newborn who went to bed early (it worked best that year). We watch the entire LOTR trilogy over Christmas break. While I am hoping to add "The Nativity" this year, I know at least this one tradition we will all find time for.

How are your preparations coming?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mattress Love

After a tumultuous 3 years of poor sleeping for John on a mattress that started failing the moment it was delivered we are finally sleeping like babies and I definitely learned a lesson in expectations.

For 10 years we slept on a mattress we bought used out of the newspaper (old school Craig's List.) It was cheap in every way, basically just a box with springs in the middle and fabric all around. Every couple years we would buy a new foam mattress to put on top of it and continued on with our firm but functional bed. Finally 3 years ago my parents couldn't stand it any longer and gave us a new mattress as a gift. And a much nicer one that we would have bought ourselves. It had a wonderful pillow top creating lots of cushion and dual sides, soft for John and firm for me. Unfortunately John's soft side got progressively more soft over the years until he was sleeping in a hole several inches deep. Actually he was huddled on the edge of the bed trying not to fall into the hole.

While I knew it was under warranty I assumed it would be a ton of work, they would want paperwork I didn't keep and I would end up frustrated and possibly stuck with the bad mattress. Then we dragged our feet so long I worried we were beyond the warranty time frame. Finally it got to the point that I worried John was going to start sleeping on the couch. I called ready to plead my story and see if I could get the process started. The manager I talked with couldn't have been nicer. They had just started doing warranties online. He gave me the web site and all the information I would need to fill it out, purchase date, invoice number, mattress name, etc. None of which I had. I went online, filled it out in about 10 minutes which included time to photograph the hole and attach the picture to the claim, and about 3 hours later received an email telling me to go pick out a new mattress. I was amazed and thrilled and couldn't wait to get into the store, hug the manager and order a new mattress.

(The hole was much deeper when you actually laid in it. John isn't pushing on the mattress at all here.)

(these pictures sealed the deal on the warranty claim)

So Isabelle and I head to the store where the manager is busy but a very nice man shows me a bed that he says is the newer model of what I have. I tell him it looks good, pay for delivery and added sales tax since we are now at a higher rate than we were 3 years ago and leave. OK I left a little perturbed about that last part but Isabelle was jumping up and down begging to leave and I was having a hard time formulating the argument for why that was completely ridiculous. It was $10, I was getting a new mattress, my hubby would sleep well and I could leave the store before the 4 year old drove me completely crazy.

Deliver day comes and we are giddy at our house. They pull the new mattress into the hallway and then pull our old one out. As they are sitting side by side I realize something very disturbing. The new mattress does not have a pillow top and is clearly not as nice as my old mattress! WHAT DO I DO???? The workers don't know about this and continue working. Should I stop them? If I do will John have to continue sleeping on the hole for an undetermined amount of time? Will they give me another new mattress that is correct or have I just been completely swindled?

While all these things are going through my mind the delivery men finish and hand me a slip to sign. Unable to process fast enough I accept delivery and let them leave. I tell John and while we are concerned we are just excited to have a new mattress without a hole. Maybe it isn't that bad. Maybe the pillow top doesn't mean anything.

My back was sore when I woke up the next day. But the mattress is new and will soften up a bit, that is what the sales guy said as I was leaving. My back continues to be sore for another week, and another and I am not sure what to do. I poll several friends who all tell me to go back to the store. But then I will have to have a fight with the store manager who won't want to fix it because they were just trying to swindle me and they clearly don't care about customer service at all.

Finally I am so full of frustration and anger over this whole thing I feel I must go in. I plan a time when Isabelle is not with me and drive over there. A snowstorm was going on and I almost wimped out but then I realized there would be nobody at the store and I would be sure to have their undivided attention. Plus nobody would see if I had to make a scene.

I go in with my paperwork and get to talk to Dave the store manager who was so nice in starting the warranty process. While I want to go in and start yelling I felt God telling me to give them the benefit of the doubt and just calmly state my problem. I did lightheartedly start by telling him I came for a fight but then calmly told him the situation.

Dave immediately knew what happened. Apparently our mattress had 2 versions, brother/sister mattresses if you will, and the sales guy had confused which one we had bought. Dave was ready to fix the problem but had to call his boss since it had been over a month since we took delivery of the wrong mattress. When asked why I waited so long I simply told him because coming in there was a "pain in the butt". He just nodded his head and made the call. While I wanted to throw out all the arguments I had run through in my head during the last month Dave seemed to be reading my mind as he calmly mentioned many of them to his boss. In the end Dave prevailed and yesterday the correct mattress was delivered at no additional cost. Who knew a bed could be so comfortable. John said he slept like a baby.

So what did I learn from this experience?

#1 Expect things to go well rather than assume they will be a problem.
#2Dragging your feet when you have a problem doesn't help but it can hurt.
#3 It is always better to give people the benefit of the doubt.
#4 Customer service is not completely dead in the United States.
#5 The pillow top mattress is worth the extra money.
#6 Dave at Mattress Giant in Eden Prairie is really great and you should definitely buy a mattress from him.

And now, with one less stressor in my life, I am off to bed where I am sure to sleep peacefully.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Isn't she cute

I have been doing some posting over at my SIL's weight loss blog lately and all my deep thoughts are over there. However, I didn't want to totally forget this one. Here are a couple cute things my darling said this weekend.

Saturday afternoon she walks downstairs where her brother is playing video games and says, "Jake, it is lunch time, I am dressed, mom is dressed and look at you, you are still in your pajamas". Where do they come up with these things? I am sure I have never said anything like that...

Sunday they celebrated St. Nicholas Day at church by having the kids leave their shoes out and putting a few chocolate gold coins in them. At home later she tells me it is the best day of her life. When I ask why she says, "Because...Church?...I got my shoe..." Oh if every best day was that simple to come by.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree

(a preview of our Christmas picture)

I have started following the blog of Jill Savage who is the founder of Hearts at Home. She is doing a week of contests. Today she is having us answer the question, "How does your personality show up in your Christmas tree? What an excellent question. :)

My Christmas tree is one of those trees with an bit of an eclectic theme.

When we were first married we had on old fake tree from my parents which we decorated with colored lights just like my parents and then put on colored balls which my mom passed on to me because she was done with them and then finally we added a small handful of personalized ornaments we had either taken from our parents or bought that year. This is the 20th tree we have decorated as a family, we have made a few changes since that first tree.

Several years ago I decided I liked the simple elegance of all white lights on a tree rather than the colored bulbs. Then a couple years ago we bought a pre-lit tree with all white lights which has revolutionized the Christmas decorating experience.

My mom always made us fill the tree with red balls before we could put the "fun" ornaments on. After following this same pattern for several years I realized that I didn't need to do that and so now we only put "fun" ornaments on our tree.

I must admit that I LOVE themed trees. They are so beautiful and have all this continuity throughout them. I love the colors and I love big ornaments. One year, the year we bought our pre-lit tree, I thought I wanted to go with a woodsy theme for my tree and my lower level so we chose a tree that has pine cones attached to various branches. I bought a few north woods type ornaments and some red and black plaid ribbon to finish it off. It was lovely for a few years but I never did decorate my basement in a north woods theme, only set up the tree down there once anyway and quickly got bored with the theme. In the end the theme that never fails me is the traditional red and green theme throughout my house.
(The inspiration for my never fail red and green theme, started by my parents when I was 5)

This year I didn't even decorate the tree. I was busy with all the other accessories of Christmas and delegated the job to my very enthusiastic 4 year old and her willing, although not quite as enthusiastic, teenage brother who did a fantastic job. I didn't even feel the need to re-distribute to balance it out.

So how does my personality come through in my tree? I would say that it is ever changing and growing. Not afraid to try new things but always staying grounded in the traditions of my childhood.
(Posed since, remember, I did not actually decorate the tree this year.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The New Testament

My grandfather was a man of faith. He loved the Lord and loved to share it with others. He often carried a small New Testament in his shirt pocket to read or share with others. After his death it was the one item my Aunt Pauline really wanted.

This weekend I was talking with her and she shared with me that after having it for several years she felt led to give to a young man from her church who was going over to Iraq. She wanted him to be able to carry the Word with him wherever he went. She then shared with me that the young man had returned but had left the little Bible for another soldier still over fighting in the war. I felt certain that was exactly what Grandpa would have wanted to see happen to his little New Testament.

I can't stop thinking about it. How beautiful to think of Grandpa's little bible ministering to someone on the other side of the world. Once upon a time Grandpa was on the other side of the world in a war and there were men there to encourage his growing faith. Now it sort of feels like Grandpa is over in Iraq returning the gift he was given to a new generation of soldiers.

It has also made me think of all the bibles I have here at home. My childhood bibles, gift bibles, various versions of the bible. I really only ever look at one or two of them. The rest I keep for sentimental reasons. Yet that is not the point of the Bible. It isn't just a book to keep on a shelf and remind me of a person or time in my life. It is God's Word. "The word of God is living and active" (Heb 4:12). It doesn't want to sit on a shelf. It wants to be out in the world speaking to people, traveling from place to place. It wants to journey with us as we live our lives.

I have purged several books this year from my shelves but not the bibles. Maybe it is time to make a little more room on the bookshelves by sharing God's word with someone who really needs it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Thankful reveal on Thanksgiving

I know all my blog readers (both of them) have anxiously been awaiting the reveal of my fabulous birthday present. It took a little longer than anticipated to finish it and we still have not finished the painting. As with all projects it is good to double the time you expect it to take. If we do that I really have another 2 weeks and this project should be done ahead of schedule. ha ha.

I am giving you a strange combination of project reveal and Thanksgiving post here since the project was christened yesterday.

First I present the BEFORE pictures:

My lovely kitchen/dining room wall. The many cabinet doors in which to store dishes and other kitchen needs.


watching daddy
The end of day one. My new open kitchen.

John worked all last weekend on the project and by the evening of my birthay I had lights, a new power bar and trim on one side.

Of course into every project a minor problem must fall. So Tuesday night we begin painting the fabulous new color I chose for the walls. A very dark dramatic color with a green tint. The color was gorgeous on the wall. Unfortunately it looked TERRIBLE against my green cabinets. It was the war of the cool color vs the warm color. I was devestated. John finally told me to walk away from the room as I was becoming more depressed the longer I sat staring at it.

I had no idea which direction to go from there. I am terrible at choosing colors. I need an expert. Contractor husband to the rescue! John called a guy he is working with and asked him to swing by our house and choose a new color for us. I would never have chosen it and wasn't even sure I liked it but that is sort of how I felt about our cabinet color when it was chosen for us. Plus, I was having a house full of guests in 1 day and didn't have alot of options so, when John called from Home Depot I gave him the name.

I started painting with a little uncertainty but by the time we had the first coat on all the walls I felt really good about it and now I am excited to spend the next few years looking at it. The color is much greener than I had initially wanted to go but is still dramatic and is beautiful with my cabinets.

The big reveal was yesterday, Thanksgiving, and it performed perfectly. It was so nice to have that extra counter space while preparing and then while serving the meal. And when we went in the kitchen to clean up we didn't seperate ourselves from conversation around the table. We could shoo people out of the kitchen without really sending them away. It was one of my favorite Thanksgivings in a long you think it was because of the new wall? Everyone was in a relaxed good mood because of the beauty of my new wall. It just makes people want to be better people because it is so wonderful. Don't you think?

My men preparing Thanksgiving dinner. I actually did not make a single part of yesterdays meal. Note the new wall color in the background.
Grandma learning a few things from Isabelle.
Cousins. It is so fun that they are all the same age and actually have some very similar interests.

Here are my neices speaking to each other in sign language. Note how functional my new wall is in the background. :)
I set a simple but beautiful table.
Instead of a kids table the kids chose a side of the table and were all lined up long before we were ready to start eating.
I bought a new puzzle for the holiday and every member of the family spent some time working on the 1000 piece puzzle. It was so fun, a shared project just makes you feel like you really spent time together.

And so after a busy couple weeks of construction, with a few days to go, and a wonderful time spent with family I can say that I am thankful for many things including:

A handy husband,
a son (and husband) who likes to cook,
a daughter who can entertain herself all afternoon while I sit in front of a puzzle,
being part of a wonderful family full of faith,
and my beautiful new wall which is sure to bring me joy for years to come.